By Jann Wiswall

The late Grammy-winning electric blues guitarist and singer Albert Collins once said, “Simple music is the hardest music to play, and blues is simple music.”

Simple or not, you can listen to some of the hottest blues bands around during the Winter Blues Weekend this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at all of your favorite Ellicottville watering holes.

Sponsored by the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, the annual event begins Friday at Balloons with the sounds of Brandon Santini and His Band from 7-11 p.m. Santini, a Memphis fixture known for his harp, vocals and soulful songwriting, will perform selections from his debut solo album “Songs of Love, Money and Misery,” including “She’s Sweet Like Honey,” “You Ruined Poor Me” and “What Can I Do?”

Also on Friday, the Gin Mill will present the Easy Street Sliders Blues Band at 9 p.m. You won’t want to miss the foot-stompin’, Chicago-style blues performance by Buffalo musicians Doug Purcell, Sonny Mayo, Tom Corsi and Paul Siwula.

Come Saturday, make plans to stop in at Balloons, Ellicottville Brewing Company (EBC), The Gin Mill and Madigan’s for four shows that will have you downloading music onto your MP3 players before the night is over.

From 5-9 p.m., start your après ski evening with the Patti Parks Band at Balloons. Parks’ strong, soulful voice is the shining star of all of her shows, but the versatility of her seven-piece ensemble is unforgettable.

At Madigan’s from 8 p.m.-midnight, the Yvonne Schmidt Band will perform songs from “Miss Y’s” debut solo album “Nothing but Blue.” You’ll fall in love with Schmidt’s confident, smooth alto voice that has been compared to both Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin.

Then at 9 p.m., check out the Jony James Band at EBC. James knows his guitar, Dobro and vocals. And with Mike Wagner on bass and Kent “Boom Boom” Leech on drums and vocals, the band simply oozes soul. James’ “weathered, leathery voice” was made for the blues, telling tales of a “tumultuous” life, but not without humor and a commanding stage presence.

Also beginning at 9 p.m., the Gin Mill presents the Speedy Parker Blues Band. Led by vocalist and guitarist Gary Sterlace – aka “Speedy Parker” – the band will keep you on your feet all night long. The band includes Mark Menge on drums, Michael Lasek on bass, and Joe Marciano on lead guitar; all sing dynamic background vocals.

Finally, wrap up your no-longer-blue weekend at Balloons on Sunday at 2 p.m. with a performance by the Tas Cru Band. Cru’s songs are “blues poetry – telltale life lessons crafted with rare verbal flair and delivered with a power and passion the heights of which only the seasoned concert entertainer can reach.”

(See schedule of entertainment on page 3.)

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